It took about 14 hours of pretty much continuous sleeping, eating nothing but soup and a few pieces of toast for nearly 24 hours, and taking whatever Chinese medicine Amy could rustle up (tell a clerk 拉肚子 -la duzi- and you’ll find something) but I had mostly shaken whatever bug I still had, enough to get back on the bike at least. It turns out we didn’t even really have a choice in the matter since check out was at noon and there were no rooms available, even the one we were currently occupying. So I stayed in bed until 11:30 and then Amy and I packed up and moved out.
After hanging out a bit longer in the hostel cafe and going down to visit the Qingdao beach and the iconic pagoda from the Tsingdao beer labels with our friends, Amy and I packed up the bike with only the essentials to keep down the weight in an effort to help me out for the remainder of the journey. It took me a while studying the city map on my phone to figure out how we were going to get out of the city since I wanted to avoid the trouble of non-existent roads that we had on the way in. Unfortunately however, it seemed there was no easy way out, so we set a map to lead us to the expressway and hope they would let us on.
Needless to say, they wouldn’t allow a motorcycle onto the expressway and we again found ourselves on invisible roads that GPS systems couldn’t acknowledge existed. So after about an hour and a half of maneuvering we finally found our way out, and that’s when the driving really got treacherous.
I have never seen roads in this bad of condition before, ever. There were maybe a solid 20 kilometers of completely unmaintained roads. These were real “developing world” conditions where the progress China has been making over the past 30 years was no longer on full display. The potholes came on all of a sudden with barely a warning and didn’t really let up. The bike was being tossed around so violently that it was a wonder pieces didn’t just start falling off. The dust was everywhere and the drivers were as awful as ever. I would try and maneuver around all road obstacles as best I could but sometimes the best option left was to just take it head on and hold on tight. And when I had resigned myself to enduring these conditions for the next 50km to the next city, it finally let up and allowed myself to exhale.
Despite driving for over 4 hours, between the awful roads and getting lost in Qingdao, we only covered about 130km and this was while I was recovering from what must have been the flu. We ended in a real hodunk town called Pingdu. The whole place had a creepy vibe thats not easy to explain, but you got the feeling that a tumbleweed would come rolling through any minute. That combined with the dust and pollution that seemed to have descended on the town did not make for a welcoming feeling. We eventually found what seemed to be the nicest flea-bag motel we could find at a major intersection to settle down for the night and rest up before moving on tomorrow. One welcoming thought though was that we were more or less back on the route we used on the way down, which meant that there shouldn’t be any more surprises. Now we just have to hope we dint actually get any fleas!